Calm mother, calm baby
When you are calm, relaxed and content as much as possible, it is most beneficial to your child.
What did you think about when you found out that you were having a baby? Like most parents you probably thought about practical things such as accommodation, furniture and even living close to grandparents. You may have changed your diet and lifestyle to give your baby the best chance.
As the pregnancy progressed, no doubt you thought about names and schooling and what stroller would be the safest and most comfortable.
After birth this continues in that your baby absorbs your moods and nuances, no matter how subtle.
Once the baby was born, like many parents, you may have become scrupulous about diet, routine and intellectual stimulation. You may have been swept up in the popular trend of attending groups, believing that emotional bonding is a priority. As the baby developed, you may have studied topics like routines, tantrums and weaning.
All of the above is fantastic and it is a credit to you that you work so hard at being a great mum! However, like many other mothers I have worked with, you may not have thought about your temperament and its potential effect on your child.
You and your child are in a relationship that is very intense, complicated and entangled from conception. In the uterus, your baby was literally a part of you and imbibed your hormones, as well as your calories. After birth this continues in that your baby absorbs your moods and nuances, no matter how subtle. He is fine-tuned that way.
Test it out. Smile and your baby will smile back. Frown and your baby will look upset. Shout and your baby will become agitated, relax and your baby will calm down. This is the wonder and awesome responsibility of being a mum. You are so special and interconnected that you have the power to influence your child's emotional life on a minute-by-minute basis.
Therefore, when you are calm, relaxed and content as much as possible, it is most beneficial to your child. Learn to cope with life's stresses appropriately, and manage your anger. Practise relaxation and/or meditation every day. Breathe deeply and relax as often as you can. Act calm even if you do not always feel calm!
Think about it from an adult's perspective. When you are with your partner watching TV, and he is tense, you feel tense. You start to worry: “What have I done wrong?” You may become restless or be extra nice because you do not like the feelings his tension is arousing in you. Conversely, when your partner is relaxed, you feel settled, you enjoy the mutual activity and you even feel more loving towards him.
Dads, too, should strive to be calm as much as possible. Just as you would not buy an uncomfortable or dangerous stroller, do not behave in a way that causes discomfort or harm. Just as you would not expose your child to poisonous food or other toxins, do not make the emotional climate at home toxic. Be vigilant and, if it is difficult to be calm and content most of the time, seek help. When you both make the commitment to manage your emotions around your child, you are providing the best environment possible for your little one’s healthy emotional development. You know already that your child is worth it.
Renée Mill, a married mother of four, has been working with people since 1973, first as an occupational therapist and then as a clinical psychologist. Over the years she has counselled hundreds of families and individuals with a range of problems. Renée continues to work full time in her own private practice in Sydney to deliver effective counselling to parents and children. Renée has released her first book, No Sweat Parenting and shares her expertise further through lectures, CDs and DVD.